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Day Seven: Write a Love Letter to Yourself

It seems we spend a lot of time being kind to others, but it is rare that we are genuinely kind to ourselves. That isn’t the same as “self care” activities like a trip to the spa. This is all about mindset! 

There are many other ways to be kind to you, and one of those that can be incredibly powerful is simply being in nature – to ground. Most of us spend much of our lives in temperature controlled buildings with little to no access to nature. However, the simple act of hugging a tree (yes, hugging a tree) or walking barefoot in the grass or on a beach can generate the feeling of peace and connectedness that you just can’t get anywhere else. 

PLUS, this act of “earthing” or “grounding” also connects us to the energy of the earth, one of the most powerful things to help us get into a more positive mindset. 

So while you’re writing yourself a love letter, make a date to wiggle your toes in some sand or grass or to hug a tree (which you can do even in the dead of winter)!

Your Health Tip of the Day: Good Sleep is Essential!

One of the MOST important things to help achieve a better mindset, and a better brain, is good sleep. It is not a badge of honor to do without good sleep. In fact, lack of sleep makes it harder to get rid of negative thoughts! 

Here is an excerpt from this LINKED article: 

If you are confronted with a reminder of a traumatic event, it’s normal for negative thoughts and feelings to arise. However, an individual’s ability to suppress unwanted thoughts varies greatly, along with the ability to regulate emotions once a negative thought has been triggered.

Now, researchers have identified a clear association between the amount of sleep you get and your ability to stop unpleasant thoughts and associated negative feelings, a faculty linked to mental health and overall well-being.

The important lesson here is to not let sleep issues get in the way of a more positive mindset. Here are tips for a better sleep, all derived from Chapter 5 of my book, “Don’t Let the Memories Fade”. 

  1. Turn off the electronic devices. The blue light from screens is disruptive to the production of melatonin, so you should stop using them at least an hour before bedtime. Turn off the wi-fi in your house before you go to bed. For many people, the electromagnetic frequencies can disrupt natural sleep rhythms, and in any event they are toxic, so it’s better to shut off wi-fi whenever possible.
  2. Create a consistent bedtime and waking-time schedule. Our bodies like regularity.
  3. Make sure you have a well-balanced diet with adequate levels of vitamins D3 and B12, remove from your diet the inflammatory and high-glycemic foods (I will discuss the best foods in chapter 12), and make sure you have enough omega-3. 
  4. To ensure the best brain housekeeping is done while you are sleeping, eat your last food of the day at least four hours before going to bed. 
  5. Sleep in a cool, dark room. It’s all about melatonin production, and melatonin is not produced well if you are too warm or there is too much light.
  6. Create a sleep sanctuary. Keep it uncluttered and free of electronics and reminders of work. Think of it as your “Zen” space.
  7. If you drink alcohol, do not do so within three hours of going to sleep.
  8. For most people it’s a good idea to stop consuming caffeine early in the afternoon.
  9. Exercise every day, but no closer than four hours before bedtime. However, some people sleep well after doing specific gentle yoga poses before going to bed. 
  10. If you still have trouble sleeping, get checked for sleep apnea. It’s much more common than you might think, and you must be able to breathe properly to get a good night’s sleep.
  11. Meditation is a great way to turn off your mind and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Another wonderful tip is to make a gratitude list every night. As you’re brushing your teeth or having a warm bath or shower, think about all the things you are grateful for that day. When you carry that with you to bed, you are carrying positivity to your slumber.
  12. Take a warm bath or shower an hour or two before bed to relax the body and help with stress reduction. 
  13. Many doctors are now recommending cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.4 This includes taking many of the actions I’ve mentioned above, and adds changing the thought patterns and behaviors that affect your ability to sleep or to sleep well. As you progress through this program, you’ll see just how important positive thought patterns are for all aspects of brain health, so this is a highly recommended tool.
  14. If you continue having difficulty, consider using some of the many natural supplements that help with sleep. Melatonin is one, and we’re also now learning that it is neuroprotective. Valerian root, magnesium, passionflower, glycine, and lavender might also be useful for you. Just steer away from pharmaceuticals.

Sleep is controlled by the brain, and sleep controls the brain. Make it your friend, because good sleep is essential to saving your brain – just as important as exercise, which is up next.

Kate Kunkel, copyright 2022

Your Mindfulness Note for the Day

I hope that you have found this to be a positive and powerful week, and that you have been able to nurture the positive, open mindset that can help you continue to grow and nurture a healthier body and brain.

For our final contemplation, I felt that it might be helpful to consider the attribute of Letting Go, particularly of guilt.

Guilt is one of those emotions that can put us in a negative feedback loop, making us judge ourselves harshly and second-guess every action we take.

Guilt is one of the biggest wastes of a human emotion because it accomplishes nothing except making us feel worse about ourselves.

To make your mindset more positive and your brain more healthy, let go of situations that may have gone wrong. Forgive yourself. Accept that these things happen and move on kindly, and with love for yourself.

One of the most helpful articles I’ve ever read on this is by Julie Potiker. She offers these four powerful steps to deal with guilt and shame, and I encourage you to use them whenever guilt threatens to disrupt your peace and your sense of self-worth and self-love.

1. Name the emotion.

The best thing you can do in that moment is pause long enough to name your emotion. Call it out. Recognize it for what it is. This simple step begins to calm your brain down and give you some space around your feelings.

2. Locate your emotion in your body.

See if you can feel where the emotion is in your body. Do you feel it in your stomach? In your jaw? In your neck? Where do you feel tension or discomfort?

3. Apply soothing touch.

Place your hands over that spot and try to soothe or comfort yourself that way. Imagine warm oil or a warm compress opening up the constricted area. If that doesn’t work, you can place your hands anywhere on your body that you find comforting, such as over your heart, on your belly, cradling your face, around your shoulders in a hug, etc. When you give yourself this soothing touch, you are loving yourself. You are giving yourself comfort when you feel activated by some negative emotion. This takes you out of reactivity mode and into a more loving, calm space. You are releasing the nurturing hormones of oxytocin and endorphins which calm your system.

4. Change the channel.

Finally, as a last step, change the channel. It can be hard to change the channel as a first step when you’re feeling so poorly. So, call your emotion by name, locate it in your body, apply soothing touch to yourself, then invite yourself to change your channel of thought to improve your mood. You can do that a variety of ways: You can focus on something you are grateful for, perhaps going so far as to write a letter of gratitude to someone (including yourself!). You don’t need to send it to get the mental health benefits of the shift in mood. Or, choose an activity to do from your joy list that you feel would fill you with calm, loving feelings. You might pull up a wonderful memory and marinate in the feelings to install the goodness in your body and mind, pushing the mental state into a neural trait.